We are alive and well out in the West, finishing up an amazingly good growing season here in Nevada.  I know California suffered through a heat wave and have read reports of significant crop and livestock losses but, of course, have not seen anything in print about flower farmers.  Being the innovative type that flower farmers typically are I hope they were able to make adjustments.  
    
Speaking of innovators, this spring I read an interesting article in a periodical I receive, The Stockman Grass Farmer, (March 2006, Vol. 06 #3) that I think applies to and personifies many ASCFG members.  It made me realize why I am a member of the ASCFG.  In case you are wondering— no, The Stockman Grass Farmer is not a typical flower farmer subscription.  But I have an interest in livestock and grazing and have kept up my subscription from the days we were doing a lot of livestock grazing because this publication has extensive information on direct marketing, among other useful information that can be extrapolated to flower farming.  
    
Allan Nation is the editor of the Grass Farmer and his column, “Allan’s Observations”, focused on innovative farmers. Mr. Nation quoted a 1962 book called Diffusion of Innovation by Everett M. Rogers.  This is out of print, but is a study of the extension service’s efforts to get farmers to switch from open-pollinated corn in the post-World War II era. Rogers found that all technological change starts with a small group he called the “innovators.”  This is the only group of farmers who truly like to learn new things, and it is a small group—only 2.5% of the total group of farmers.                          

“Rogers found that innovators tend to be wealthier and far better read than most farmers.  They like to travel widely and, above all else, like to visit with other farmers like themselves.  As a result, they form many long-distance relationships with other innovators.  They can understand and apply complex technical knowledge and adapt a new idea from just reading about it in the trade press.  They are less dogmatic, less rigid, more rational and their neighbors think they are totally insane.”
    
Have I described you yet?  I can’t say I meet the wealthier description, but I am pretty certain my neighbors (friends and family as well, for that matter) think I am insane.   From my membership in the ASCFG I can say that I have struck up and greatly appreciate long-distance relationships with other  farmers.  In fact, if I want any interaction with another flower farmer it would be long distance, since the closest flower grower to me is at least 100 miles away.  I often at least try new ideas after just reading about them and bet you do too.  
    
Allan writes that, unfortunately, a “lunatic” farmer is not seen as a role model and as a result “what the innovator does on his farm is literally invisible to his neighbors.”  The normal reaction to unconventional success is “Well it might work in (wherever) but it won’t work here.”  Rogers wrote in his book that some communities had a greater tolerance for innovation than others.
    
I know he was referring to actual communities but I consider the ASCFG a community and find that we not only tolerate innovation, ASCFG members embrace it and thrive on it.  However, if you live in a community of non-innovators, or like myself, in a community of no farming at all to speak of, it is easy to get dragged down and start doubting yourself and your goals.  Allan implores his readers to “network with other people like yourself in other parts of the country to avoid being mentally and emotionally dragged down.”  
    
This is where the ASCFG always comes in handy.  Think of all the ways the ASCFG keeps us from being dragged down.  The Cut Flower Quarterly  is one and now you can read it online, you don’t even have to wait for it to appear in your mailbox.  The ASCFG office has been regularly checking in with all of us with “Short Cuts”.  Or if you need a quick fix you can go to the bulletin board to get some input on one of your ‘innovative ideas.’  Then there are our Regional Meetings and the National Conference – you are coming aren’t you?
  
After all, Allan writes that “innovative farmers are influenced by farmers as, or more, innovative than themselves.”  An innovative farmer prefers to get peer- generated information that is typically from outside his community. If you didn’t know why you were a member, now you do and I look forward to forging future long-distance relationships through the many venues the ASCFG offers.